BlackBird Saga: 1. Introduction

1. Introduction

To understand the story it’s necessary to start in the past. In 1990s there were several companies who made their own workstations and servers with different CPUs. You know, there were also personal computers made by the Apple and IBM-compatible ones (with Intel or Intel-compatible CPUs). The Apple ones were rather unusual in Central and Eastern Europe because of their price the IBM-compatible stuff was the most common.

Of course, the REAL workstations used to be much more powerful (and much expensive, too) than personal computers. I first saw a SGI workstation (on a wall poster) somewhere around 1995. At the time we had a no-name
PC with the 386DX CPU (at 33 MHz, I think) and I thought that it is very fast. And then I found that there is something even faster and something that can do 3D graphics! If I’m mot mistaken there was some Indigo on that poster (with the 100 MHz 64-bit CPU!).

SGI Indy

The first real UNIX workstation which I used was the SGI Indy in 2001. I have started to work at the Technical University of Ostrava and there still were two rooms of SGI Indys (I one of O2s but I newer saw them). In that time I had some Linux experience so I found the easy to use. In 2002 I have bought my first non-PC desktop – a low-end SGI
Indy (with the “cheap” MIPS R4600PC CPU). It wasn’t fast, partially because of small RAM size (it have had 32 MB or of RAM with another 16 MB added but thee later were erratic so I had to remove them). But it was my first UNIX desktop! I started to use it (and invested lots of money to make it better). First I upgraded the RAM (to 128 MB and
then to the 265 MB which is maximum for the Indy). Then I bought second HDD (0.5GB) so I had total 2.5 GB. Later I was able to get bigger and quieter HDDs so to the present day this Indy has the 18GB drive (a Fujitsu one, I think). I also replaced the R4600PC CPU (it was slow – the “PC” means “Primary Cache” so the CPU has no secondary one…) with much more powerful R4400SC (a 175 MHz one). This CPU has 1 MB of secondary cache and (probably more importantly) has powerful floating point unit. I started to use the Indy as my main (and for some time the only) home desktop in 2003 (when I finished my Ph.D. so I had no longer need for insane amount s of computing power). It actually replaced my AMD Athlon-based PC (an ugly and noisy but relatively powerful thing). In 2005 I have got the SGI O2. It was an
upgrade from teh Indy: a much faster machine with better 3D capabilities (older SGIs like the Indy had no hardware acceleration for textures, for example). It’s my main home desktop from that time.

SGI O2

After that I was able to get and try other workstations. I had a DEC Alpha ones for a short time (only one of them was actually able to boot), a HP ones (the same problems), the Sun Ultra 5 (a cheap and slow thing – it has CPU which should run in circles around my Indy but actual performance of the machine is terrible), the Sun Blade (well, it’s a bit faster but that’s all).

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BlackBird Saga: 1. Introduction

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